Who Are We?

There are concentration camps in The United States of America. Human beings, many of them children, have been locked away without trial in horrifying conditions. They are sick, dying, and outright murdered by their captors. Their captors operate with no independent oversight, little press coverage, and the financial backing of The United States Government. Our tax dollars fund concentration camps.

The sun is still shining. I had coffee this morning and went to work. I played with my cat. Later, I’ll attend a class and call my mother. There are concentration camps in the United States of America, and I could very reasonably go through my entire day without thinking about them at all, let alone doing something to help. It’s both a privilege and a shame.

Who are we, as a nation, that we can allow such things? We are the same nation that nearly destroyed ourselves over the right to own other human beings. We are the Trail of Tears, Mexican Repatriation, and Japanese Internment camps. We tore people born on this land away from their families and their homes, why am I shocked at the treatment of refugees? If I am so shocked and horrified, why do I read books about liberation rather than taking to the streets against injustice?

Because it is easier. I feel safe with my doors locked, running the errands necessary to survival. Occupying my mind with creativity, petty desires, and tedious dilemmas feels better than confronting and dismantling my own privilege. I tell myself that it’s a different world now. I ask who would be served by risking my income or physical safety? Whose mind can I really change by arguing about fascism and human dignity? If we have been fighting the same battles for centuries, what hope is there for victory now?

There are concentration camps in America. It cannot be unknown. We can go about our lives, but there are concentration camps in America. We can quibble or sob or shake our heads in resignation, but there are concentration camps in America. There is a precedent for the concentration camps in America. This is who we are.

Who do we wish to become? Can I become the type of person I read about? Can I act, not for comfort or safety but because the action itself is right? Can we, as a nation, stare our crimes in the face and make honest recompense? If I recognize that the safety promised by silence is an illusion, will I break it?

Now is the time to find out.